Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How I Design A Book Cover Part 2: Choosing the right medium and surface


One of the best things about being an older and more experienced illustrator is that I have a lot of tools in my tool kit. I can make better decisions about what medium to use on which surface.

Star Map Inspiration
I’ve chosen the create a star map as part of my book cover illustration. The inspiration is a Tibetan Star map I found online. Because the map is highly technical I felt that paint wouldn’t be the right medium for it. I’ve used colored pencils on dark paper many times with great success. So I decided to do some color tests to see if that would be the right medium and surface for this piece.

Some of my colored pencil pieces on medium and dark Canson papers.
As it turned out the Prismacolors weren’t giving me the effect that I wanted. The colors were too dull, and the color harmony was off. I experimented with Neocolor II Aquarelles, next. They worked better, giving me the pop of color I needed with the added benefit that you can sharpen them for technical work.

As Canson paper won’t hold up for wet media, I dug out a sheet of black Stonehenge paper. This heavier paper can handle light and medium washes just fine and will be a better match for the Neocolors. Another advantage to using these watercolor crayons is that I’m able to give the girl’s face a more painterly look.

Color Design Tests for the Book Cover
Art is no mystery. It’s a series of carefully considered decisions.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How I Design A Book Cover Part 1: Getting the Right Feel




The expression — “don’t judge a book by its cover” is ridiculous! Of course, you'll judge books by their covers. We all do.

But how do you get the right cover for your book? If you’re not a graphic designer you’ll hire the job out, or buy one of the online services on CreateSpace, or something similar.

I’m an illustrator and graphic designer. I produced my first book cover for a small publishing company in the early 1990’s. A lot’s changed since then. But one thing hasn’t…you still need good design. Many book covers today don’t have it, the fault of a freelance marketplace of self-published books and inexperienced cover designers. Also, diminishing resources at publishing houses.

It’s a bit of a free-for-all, really. Some books have lovely artwork with no thought given to where the title and author’s name will eventually go. Others use generic or recycled artwork or photographs which may be attractive but don’t relate to the story.

The best design is an integrated whole which inspires excitement through appropriate illustration and principles of good design. Some book covers are stunningly interesting but also badly designed. Good design is beautiful in itself, even when simplified down to a line drawing. Individual elements are balanced and lead the eye appropriately. The thoughtful artist leaves room for the masthead or title, instead of producing the art and then superimposing titles awkwardly over the painting, or squeezing them in as an after thought.

Color can hide a multitude of design sins, but when you look past the paint what once looked intriguing can look like a mismanaged mess.

I’m creating a book cover for a pulp-style novelette. It will have the feel of the old Astounding and Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine covers, but with some modern elements. 

To begin, I deconstruct old magazine and book covers by creating simple line drawings called thumbnails. These allow me to see which designs are built on solid foundations and which aren’t. 

I do many small thumbnail drawings, pages and pages of them. Each sketch takes no more than ten minutes, and most about five. Here are some examples…
Designs by pulp artists Alex Schomburg and James B. Settles and others

Book cover designs by Stanley Pitt

Various pulp magazines and books, front and back covers

Pulp covers some from the early 20th Century
Once I get a good feel for what the genre cover designers did, and what I like, I can then think about the elements I want on my book cover and where to put them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

An Illustrator’s Life — Sara’s tips

The frame of a drawing is a useful tool for visual storytelling.

Recently, I had several students tell me that they broke the frame of their drawing to create a sense of liberation. This can be useful thing to do, but should be used appropriately, not because your initial planning was off.

In the book illustration I’m doing right now…the character is backed into a corner, both literally and metaphorically. I’m carefully debating how much of his body to show. At the scale I’m working fractions of an inch count.

In this case, it’s all about the tip of the elbow. Believe it or not…that can make all the difference in the world.

As I study the drawing throughout the day, I make minute changes to capture just the right amount of restriction.

I’m almost there now. I’ll certainly have it right by tomorrow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sketch of the Day

"View from my kitchen window," pen and ink and marker in a Moleskin sketchbook
Copyright, Sara Light-Waller 2017
It was rainy today, not the best day to draw outside. So I drew the outside from the inside. This is a view of my neighbor's house as seen through my kitchen window.

It was fun to draw something that I look at from the sink every, single day.

More to come...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Flying Pony Studios site rebuild - DONE!

Welcome to the new Flying Pony Studios website!


I rebuild my website every few years.

It's necessary as both the times, and my focus, changes periodically. 

The new build is teaching-focused with pages for classes, an event calendar, and a page to promote my art coaching business. Of course, there's also a gallery of my artwork and a place to see some current projects. About the latter...there'll be more added to the current projects page sometime soon. I have a few new projects I'm really excited to share with you.

I'll get there.

And there will be a e-commerce store here, too. In time. 

For now though...I hope you like the new Flying Pony Studios website.

Drop me a line with comments or if you find any *shiver* typos.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I am delighted to announce my new Urban Sketching class series!




 Sketch in the City
Olympia, WA, Saturdays, March 4, 11, 18, 25 & April 1
Sara Light-Waller & Jane Wingfield, instructors

Have you ever wanted to be an urban sketcher? This class will show you how. You’ll learn everything you need to know from how to draw people quickly to sketching complex outdoor scenes. Through fun and confidence-building exercises, you’ll create fresh and expressive drawings. You’ll learn the keys to becoming a successful urban sketcher.

Every level of artist is welcome in this class.

Learning Goals:
                  Explore urban sketching tools
                  Learn to create confident line work with pen, brush, and pencil
                  Build your drawings with simple shapes
                  Play with value in both black & white and in color
                  Understand one and two-point perspective
                  Explore the art of visual storytelling
                  Understand the value of thumbnails in sketching design
                  Enjoy outdoor sketching with classmates

The Sketch in the City blog (http://sketchinthecityclass.blogspot.com/) has instructor bios and artwork samples.

Class size is limited to the twenty students so that every artist can get the personal attention they need to succeed.

Sketch in the City will be held on five (5) sequential Saturdays — 3/4, 3/11, 3/18, 3/25, 4/1 from 9:30 - 4:30 PM in Olympia, WA..

Five Saturdays. That’s a big investment in time, we know. We don’t want to waste your time and money. Any less class time and we would have to skim over some important topics. That would be a great disservice to you. We want you to learn all you need to know to become a confident urban sketcher.

We’re so sure that you’ll become a successful sketcher after this class is over that we’re offering students a Money-Back Guarantee on the tuition. If, after the class series is over, you don’t agree that you’ve achieved at least a minimum improvement in your sketching skills we’ll give you a prompt and courteous refund on your tuition.

Sign up by February 18 and get the Early Bird Price of $200. That’s a $25 savings over the regular price of $225.

Email janewingfield@gmail.com  or sara@saralightwaller.com with questions or to register.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Drawing the Bones of Bigelow House


Sketching the Bigelow House Museum

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. I’ve filled countless sketchbooks and napkins and scraps of notebook paper with horses, superheroes, cartoons, and all the daily d├ęcor I see around me.

When I was fourteen my father told me that my sketch didn’t have any bones under the skin. I looked at the drawing and thought, “how can a drawing on paper have bones?”

I studied and understood that everything has bones…even houses.

I like to old sketch houses, I’m not sure why. Maybe, because they have such good bones.

Urban Sketch of the Bigelow House, Copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2017
I drove to Olympia today to sketch the Bigelow House Museum. The weather was cold and rainy, not unexpected for Washington in February. The house wasn’t open for tours today, and anyway, it was much too wet to sketch outside. So I sat in my car, across the narrow suburban street, and sketched.

The Bigelow House Museum in Olympia
It always surprises me how messy my sketches are. In the studio I could render this lovely old house exactly. But that’s not the point of urban sketching, is it? All the bent windows and off-kilter groundlines show that you really were there…drawing on your lap, braced against the car door with rain from the cracked-open window splattering onto your sketch and making the ink run.

And that's what makes it fun.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Step by Step



A finished sketch or drawing is pleasing. The color’s in, the pencil lines are gone, and, if you’re lucky, the ink lines haven’t smudged. But here’s a secret…up until the very end these sketches usually look like a kindergartener’s best work.

For this reason, many artists don’t show the early stages. But I thought that non-artists might find it interesting to see what a couple of drawing sequences look like.

Here are two small paintings that I did today, both scenes from my neighborhood. They begin the same way, with loose pencil drawings. I add brown ink (Noodler’s Polar Brown ink, if you’re curious) and after the ink’s dried, erase the pencil lines and add color.

"Red House" is painted with watercolor and "Tool Yard" is colored with water-soluable markers. Each color treatment gives a different look.

Watercolor is expressive and delightful for fast sketches. But I like markers too. They’re easy to carry, you can use them anywhere, and they don’t freeze in cold weather.

Do any of my friends from Centralia recognize the locations?

"Red House," pencil sketch

"Red House," brown ink

"Red House," brown ink and watercolor in a Moleskin sketchbook
Copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2017



"Tool Yard," pencil sketch

"Tool Yard," brown ink

"Tool Yard," brown ink and marker in a Moleskin Sketchbook
Copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2017